Wireless network operators want you to pay extra to tether a laptop to your smartphone. An iOS app called iTether allowed iPhone and iPad owners to tether without paying those extra carrier fees. That's probably why Apple yanked iTether's iPhone application a mere 20 hours after it landed in the App Store on November 29.
Now, iTether is back.
Rather than rewrite their app to conform to Apple's rules, the team decided to take an entirely different approach. Tether created an HTML5 Web app that uses an ad-hoc setup to let iPhone users tether their PC to their smartphone.
This circumvents the need to buy the application directly from Apple's App Store and allows any iPhone or iPad with a data connection to tether successfully--without paying those extra monthly fees to the carrier.
[ Tethering workarounds keep popping up. Read iPhone App Contains Secret Tethering Capability. ]
"It was clear from our initial application iTether, there was enormous demand within the iPhone ecosystem," said Tim Burke, CEO of Tether in a blog post. "It was unfortunate that Apple decided to remove our application, only 20 hours after we launched. However, this caused us to innovate. Our underlying patent-pending technology behind Tether for iPhone is unlike anything on the market."
Tether says that its HTML5 iPhone app works across carriers and networks, and won't require users to reconfigure every time they use the application with a new network or new device.
Right now, the service is available at a promotional price of just $15 per year, though that price is set to double to $30 per year in the coming weeks.
Is using this service a good idea? Well, that really depends.
For the record, I pay AT&T $25 per month for 2GB of smartphone data and another $20 per month for 2GB of tethering data. That's $45 per month for 4GB of data. I chew through between 1.2GB and 1.7GB on my smartphone (app downloads, email, photo/video uploads, etc.) every month. The amount of data I use just for tethering varies widely from a few hundred megabytes to more than 1GB. Though I am not using my full 4GB allotment, I use my iPhone as a mobile hotspot without fail every single month, and this feature has saved my behind a few times when every other type of connection failed.
Wireless network operators, including AT&T, were able to figure out when customers were tethering their smartphones without subscribing. They issued cease-and-desist letters and demanded that customers pay up or else.
That extra $20 per month hurts. It adds up to $480 over the lifetime of my contract with AT&T. I'd rather spend that $480 on pretty much anything else. iTether lets you avoid that $20 monthly tethering/hot spot fee--though you're probably violating the terms of your contract in some way. The question is, are you willing to take the chance? Will AT&T and other carriers figure out how to block this and then pursue action against their customers? Will Apple and its carrier partners pursue legal action against iTether? It's possible.
Bottom line: If you're a mobile professional and require reliable and easy-to-use mobile broadband when on the road, your employer should be willing to pay for it.
Here's a video that demonstrates how iTether for the iPhone works:
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